Focus Point - The Real Tobacco Story

Commentary by Pete du Pont

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Let's be clear what anti-smoking forces want: force people to stop smoking and put tobacco companies out of business. End of story.

But state governments have a different agenda: they want the money: not only the $250 billion settlement, but also the $7.5 billion states collect in excise taxes every year. If the zealots win, however, states won't collect so much. So states don't want the anti-smokers to win.

But now come multi-billion dollar punitive damage judgments against the tobacco companies. The companies don't want them, and neither do the state attorneys general, since they would bankrupt big tobacco. The states have a revenue source -- proceeds of tobacco litigation -- and they're not about to let a bunch of health nuts and tobacco haters turn off the spigot.

What's fascinating about all this is that it makes clear that, whatever the goal of the zealots, and whether you like or loathe tobacco companies, the state governments' crusade against smoking was never about anything but money. Why am i not surprised?

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you next time.